Illinois Wesleyan Ranks High for Students Abroad
Illinois Wesleyan student Ryan Reimer joins friends in a playful pose holding up the
Tower of Piza in Italy.
March 12, 2008
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – Illinois Wesleyan University is opening international doors.
The University ranked in the top 40 of the Institute of International Education’s
(IIE) most recent Open Doors report, which looks at the number of total students studying
abroad and international students and scholars coming to the United States. Illinois
Wesleyan ranked 37 in the nation among baccalaureate institutions for the total number
of students studying abroad during the 2005-2006 academic year.
Open Doors is an apt title of the report because of the opportunities students receive,
said Stacey Shimizu, interm director of the International Office at Illinois Wesleyan.
“We’re preparing students for global citizenship, and studying abroad is a key tool
for that,” Shimizu said of students who take part in study programs and faculty-led
coursework abroad. This semester, there are 56 students spending semesters studying
abroad, and 52 students from other countries studying at Illinois Wesleyan.
Studying abroad can come in the guise of a year-long exchange, a semester in foreign
halls through the multitude of programs with the International Office, or an intensive
few weeks with a May Term travel course. “They have access to so many programs here,
that students can fill almost any need,” said Shimizu.
During their travels, students find themselves immersed in new cultures and ancient
histories. From the mountains of the Middle East to the wetlands of Australia, many
students discover their future in traveling abroad, or simply discover something about
Lindsey Haines and Scottish
MSP Patricia Ferguson
Scotland and Parliament
During her time abroad sophomore Lindsey Haines learned one thing about her future.
“I definitely learned I do not want to hold public office. I could not be under that
kind of scrutiny,” said Haines, who spent a semester in Edinburgh, Scotland, as an
intern for a Member of the Scottish Parliament. “If I do go into politics, I’ll need
to be behind the scenes.” Haines, an economics and political science double major,
said she was surprised by the intimate feel of the Parliament offices in Scotland.
“In the United States, if you intern for a Senator, you might sit and type for six
weeks,” said Haines, a Crete, Ill., native. “In Edinburgh, I was in an office with
[the MSP] Patricia Ferguson and her secretary – that was it. I was able to do field
work and conduct interviews for housing research that was actually used in creating
policy. It was amazing.”
Oman and mountains
When abroad, students can break barriers or become ambassadors of our own culture.
Steve Trzyna’s decision to travel abroad came as no surprise to the parents of the
senior, especially when he switched his major from biology to international studies
major, with an intent of joining the Marines. His choice of destination, however,
did surprise them. “When I told my parents I wanted to travel to Oman, my mom looked
at me and said, ‘That’s nice. Are you sure you don’t want to go to Spain or Australia
like everyone else?’” Trzyna, the first Illinois Wesleyan student to study in the
Middle Eastern country on the Arabian Peninsula, knew he wanted to learn Arabic, and
was lured by the beauty of Oman’s mountains and beaches. “I’ll never forget the landscape
or the people there,” said Trzyba.
Overwhelmed by the friendly nature of the people of Oman, Trzyna came to think of
himself as an ambassador for Americans. “The stereotypes of Americans are pretty poor,”
he said. “This was a chance for us to really learn from each other."
Australia and mangroves
Kristin Russo also found her future abroad – in the swampy lands of Australia. The
senior from Elk Grove, Ill., originally intended to pursue veterinarian school after
she graduated from Illinois Wesleyan, until she took a class on conservation. “I just
fell in love with environmental science, and found myself taking as many classes as
I could,” said Russo, a double major in biology and French.
Her studies led her to a semester abroad studying the coast of Queensland, Australia,
where she discovered mangroves, the swampy areas between the coast and land. “They
are muddy and dirty and just fun,” said Russo, who now plans a career in ecological
conservation and will study abroad again this fall, this time focusing on replenishing
mangroves in Madagascar.
Kristin Russo literally took to the mangroves in Australia.
Nozomi Oka did more than hit the books duirng her stay, joining the Illinois Wesleyan
The U.S. and homework
Nozomi Oka’s impression of the United States was far from poor, it was what led her
to take a year away from her home in Japan and travel to Illinois Wesleyan. “The liberal
arts education in the United States is pretty famous in Japan,” said the Keio University
student, who chose Illinois Wesleyan to study business and American life. “
Classes in Keio are all big lecture halls with no homework and one exam at the end,”
said Oka. “Here it is small classes, a lot of homework, and I’ve never been more challenged
or excited about the work I’m doing,” she said.
One of her favorite elements of being an exchange student is hanging out with others
from across the globe. “When I walk into a dining hall, there are always other international
students there,” said Oka, who has joined the Illinois Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra
and the Illinois Wesleyan Dance Team during her year here. “No matter where I am on
campus, I always feel at home.”
Korea and Thanksgiving
Being homesick while abroad is natural for any student, but it is often tempered by
incredible memories that are fashioned through travel. For David Joung, a junior biology
major, a defining moment of his time abroad came when he stood over the gravestones
of his grandparents in Korea for the first time. “We were celebrating Chuseok, the
Korean Thanksgiving,” said Joung, who was born in Korea, but moved to the Philippines
with his parents when he was five, not returning to the country of his birth until
last fall on a semester-long exchange. “It’s a tradition to get together with family,
just like here, but you visit the graves of your ancestors and honor them with food
and drink and gifts. It was an experience.”
Joung, who plans to pursue a career in dentistry, took courses in at Yonsei University
in Seoul City, Korea. But Joung found more studying abroad than discussions on genetics
and biochemistry. “The entire experience gave me confidence,” he said. “It was learning
another language – I didn’t remember speaking Korean when I was a child – and interacting
with people of Korean culture that was enlightening and empowering.”
Venice and performances
Sophomore Liz Schwarzrock remembers sitting in a very old church in Venice, and watching
a crowd go wild – for an orchestra. “It was flawless classical music, and the performers
had fun. The audience just went nuts,” said the performance theatre major from Edina,
Minn., “As a performer, to see how well-respected performances are in Europe is eye-opening
experience.” Schwarzrock studied museums and cathedrals in Italy and Austria on a
May term travel course, which combines a week of classes in Bloomington with an intensive
several weeks in a foreign country. She professes she caught the “travel bug,” and
plans on going to Japan this May Term with one of her professors from the School of
Theatre Arts. “My last trip was one to take in a different culture, this one will
be combining my major with travel.” The class, titled Domo Ari – Got To Go To Japan,
will focus on Asian philosophies of energy and movement of the body.
Italy, Austria, Australia and opera
Ryan Reimer’s love of travel came with his first May Term travel course studying the
museums and cathedrals of Italy and Austria. “The first day we walked a couple of
blocks from our hotel, and there was the Coliseum. It was the first thing we saw,
practically right outside our window.” A computer science major, Reimer said May Term
travel course offered him the chance to travel and explore outside his field of study.
“As a compute science major, there really is no course benefit to me taking an entire
semester off, so May Term was perfect,” said the senior from Lindenhurst, Ill. Reimer
confesses he caught the travel abroad bug, and has also taken a second May Term trip
to Australia and New Zealand. He plans a third this May to China and Korea. “It’s
an intensive, but highly organized experience,” said Reimer, who had the rare opportunity
to visit the Sydney Opera House in Australia, and hold a koala bear. “I know I will
never get a chance again to see and learn these many things, and with a group of people
my age. I’m seeing the world with my friends.”
Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960